Football Notebook - Defense
The starting quarterback job seems to be issue No. 1 with West Virginia football fans, but perhaps issue No. 1a for the team is its two starting corners.
Coach Dana Holgorsen said those two positions are still up for grabs among six different guys, specifically, Ishmael Banks, Travis Bell, Avery Williams, Brandon Napoleon, senior Brodrick Jenkins and outstanding true freshman Daryl Worley.
“Brodrick Jenkins is the veteran of the group but whether he can hold off the younger guys or not, we’ll see,” Holgorsen said earlier this morning. “Playing in the Big 12, the receivers are good.”
Holgorsen said Banks has been playing “just about as good as anyone,” and he also singled out Worley, who, at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, is one of the biggest corners on the team.
“(Corner) is a position that is challenging so we need guys that are confident and obviously better than what we were playing with last year,” Holgorsen said.
Corners coach Brian Mitchell echoed those sentiments.
“This league has always been a league that puts great athletes out in space, so you’ve got to have great athletes who can make open-field tackles,” he said. “In this league you can have three receivers across the board at anytime who can take it the distance, so you must have skilled players not only in the back end, but also at the linebacker level who can play in space.”
Mitchell said it’s up to him and the rest of the defensive coaches to identify the best players to handle what they will be facing in the Big 12 this fall.
“You’ve got to be able to assess your players and put them into the best possible situations that you can, fundamentally, schematically or whatever the situation is because right now we can’t go out and trade for anyone,” Mitchell said. “The recruiting draft is over with so we’ve got to develop the players we have here. I went into spring call thinking we could be a (back) pedal team. We’re not a pedal team. We’re going to shuffle.
“We’re going to take a step out of that process and get their hips out of it,” he added. “We’re going to put our kids into situations where they can win.”
- Defensive lineman Dontrill Hyman certainly passes the eyeball test. Now, it’s a matter of the Hinds Community College transfer being able to adjust to the speed and tempo that West Virginia’s defense is going to be facing this year.
“A lot of times in a junior college setting it’s see ball, hit ball. In fact, I learned that from (former WVU linebacker) Josh Francis – that’s what he told me,” said defensive line coach Erik Slaughter. “Well, it’s not like that here. There are techniques involved. There are responsibilities involved and you are held accountable for them every play. That’s what (Hyman is) going to have to learn.”
Still, there is a lot of upside with the athleticism, size and ability that the Warsaw, N.C. resident brings to the table.
“He’s as talented physically as a defensive lineman as there is in the Big 12,” admitted Slaughter. “Now, he’s got to learn to play in our scheme and he’s got to learn to play at this level.
“Can I process the call? Can I get lined up? Can I do all of the things I can do when I have time to think and can I do that (rapidly)? That remains to be seen,” said Slaughter. “I’m hoping for great things. My job is to give him simple things to think about and let him play because he’s very, very athletic.”
In the middle, Slaughter said sophomore Christian Brown is beginning to mature into a more reliable guy playing behind senior Shaq Rowell.
“He and I really butted heads at times last year and into the spring,” Slaughter said. “But we have a great relationship now. I know how he likes to be talked to and coached. Certain kids respond to being yelled at and certain kids don’t. You talk to them and meet with them individually so we have a good feel now.”
Physically, Slaughter said Brown is in a much, much better place this year as well.
“He’s lost weight,” said Slaughter. “At times last year he was about 317 pounds and now he’s playing at 300. He’s moving around great and his conditioning is great for him. I’m excited about him.”
- Holgorsen confirmed Monday morning that former linebacker Garrett Hope has been moved to fullback to help with depth issues at that position. Hope appeared in 12 of 13 games last year at the Buck position, making 14 total tackles, including two tackles for losses. Holgorsen said Hope is the only player who has switched to the other side of the ball during camp so far.
- Safeties coach Tony Gibson says he is pleased with his two front-line guys Karl Joseph and Darwin Cook, and now the focus is on finding a couple of reliable players behind them for depth and to also use in nickel and dime situations.
“We have to strain them in practice and put them in situations that are game like,” Gibson noted last week. “I’m repping a lot of guys at safety. Obviously we know about Karl, Cook and K.J. (Dillon). (Freshman) Malik (Greaves) missed a couple of days (last week) but he’s back there. (Freshman) Jeremy Tyler is getting a lot of reps, so the guys are working. We just have to keep producing depth and a lot of these guys have to get on special teams or maybe play them in our nickel and dime packages to get them experience that way.”
Another guy to possibly consider at safety is redshirt freshman Jarrod Harper.
“He’s doing some really good things,” said Gibson. “He looks good; he’s running well, he’s tackling well and I really like where he’s at at this point. And Jeremy Tyler is doing some good really good things. We just have to keep building it and seeing who is going to be that guy who steps up.”
Gibson said there could be times when they drop Dillon down into the box to help with run support.
“With moving him we have to have someone come in behind Karl to spell those guys,” said Gibson.
- Defensive coordinator Keith Patterson admitted last Saturday that the defensive coaches simply don’t have enough time in a week to cover all of the things that they need to go over with their players, so it’s up to the players to make up the rest of it on their own.
“Just in going through our scheme you have to spend time,” he said. “You have to become a student of the game and that’s what we’ve challenged our players (to do). You just can’t play by the seat of your pants. I don’t care if it’s tracking a running back or a wide receiver in space, I don’t care if it’s a run-fit concept – every time the coverage changes the run-fit concept changes. That’s what allows us to be multiple.”
Right now, Patterson said the staff is beginning to focus on the finer details of what they plan to do this fall.
“Everybody knows their responsibility, but it’s how we’re going to get there,” he said. “We have a plan for everything from our communication to the way we teach to the way we attack overtime to the way we attack sudden change to the way we handle adversity – everything.”
What makes it difficult is that coaches have just 20 hours a week to work with their players when they could easily spend three times that amount of time going over everything that needs to be taken care of.
“Therefore you have to have kids that volunteer their own time to come over,” Patterson said. “They are here 20 hours a week and I’m working 15 hours a day. If I’m sitting there working for 15 hours in one day and then we spend 20 hours a week when I can physically get my hands on them, obviously, they’ve got to volunteer time because I’m going to give them more than 20 hours worth of information.”
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